Buying and selling stuff online hasn’t reached Web 2.0 yet. While we ingest news and friend updates in real-time, we still have to trust strangers that strangers will pay for the stuff we sell them. Through feeds and social media, we have control over who we hear from about what, but it’s still hard to stop a random person from scamming you on Craigslist or eBay. We have privacy in our Facebook groups, but the entire world can see what we want to buy or sell.
Web app architects Dave Durand and Nick Huhn were tired of this now-archaic way of managing, exchanging and getting rid of stuff. So they designed a solution. Keepio, which the co-founders say is like “Craigslist without the freaks,” is a simple, intuitive online app that lets you track, share, sell, and swap your belongings while controlling of your privacy. There are no transaction fees, and Keepio is fully integrated with Facebook and Twitter. Keepio also increases your trust factor by listing your friends and allowing you to write a brief bio.
We caught up with Dave and Nick to talk more about what Keepio does, how it works, and the potential for their slick new startup.
BP: Can you tell me a little bit about how you came up with the idea for Keepio?
We run a digital agency where build applications day in and day out, mostly involving Flash, 3-D design, and motion graphics. We’re constantly coming up with ideas on different things that we could do.
One of the guys here collects comic books and knives. One day, he was like, “It’d be great if we had an application that lets me track the stuff I care about and share it with friends.”
We kind of held on to that idea. We’d been itching to integrate products into our service-based business model and it seemed like the opportune time to explore it. This idea felt right. We ran with it and it’s evolved over the last 7 months into the alpha that you see now.
BP: Who have been your earliest adopters?
Right now there’s sort of male user bias, but there are also moms posting with other moms who are sick of Craigslist. I remember my wife posted a baby crib on Craigslist and she got a lot of interest. She replied to her first prospect “you can pick it up on Thursday.” She emailed the other prospects saying “sorry, it’s spoken for.” Well, one of those people found her phone number and then googled her address and showed up on our doorstep. She was like, “who are you?” That was the last time she used Craigslist.
We essentially take a gamble when we interact with a buyers on sites like Craigslist and eBay. That platform is outdated now. There’s nothing new that’s come along to change up the game. It’s hard to conduct a transaction because you have to list your mobile number, your email address, etc.. You can’t even complete a transaction on Craigslist. And you have to divulge all your personal information with strangers that could be trying to scam you.
It’s just a great time for people to start using something like Keepio. People don’t have the appropriate tools to share, swap and shop with friends right now. I feel like we’re truly introducing something new to the market.
BP: Keepio is pretty new now, but how could you see it expanding? Are there any fields or customer base you feel could get a lot of use out of it?
There are a ton of people who can use this site. Right now, if we were to hone in on the current demographic, it could be parents unloading kids’ clothes, small businesses tracking their office equipment and assets, collectors tracking their collections…you have numerous people that this could be an attractive platform to. Right now there isn’t really a means to do that in a clean, easy and intuitive environment.
BP: The main asset within this software is its tracking capability?
Yes. The the primary goal is to use Keepio to have better access to knowing what you own. I think we’ve created a purpose to use this site that’s in your best interest: to track your goods and be conscious of what you’re purchasing. In conjunction with that, being able to track anything, from warranty information to where you bought it or who you’re loaning it to, is a mechanism that we don’t currently have. We created a purpose, but then the whole sharing and selling is the added benefit that you get from doing that.
BP: What would initially draw customers or clients or users to your website? What would motivate them to use your product?
One of the nice things about Keepio is it doesn’t require an initial user base like a lot of other social network sites. It’s a tool that you can utilize right now to track your goods and share or sell items amongst your already-established networks of trust, via Facebook or Twitter. It serves as an alternative to Craigslist or eBay where privacy and security are challenged every day.
It’s a way for me to get online right away and add some products. Maybe I’m moving and I need to unload some of my goods right away to some of my friends, instead of going through the eBay/Craigslist outlet.
We like to focus on the simplicity of it and also the privacy aspect of it. If you wanted to add a collection or an item, what takes 10 pageviews in Craigslist, now we can do in three with Keepio. There’s some simplicity there.
There are also baked-in privacy features you can assign. It can be completely private to you, or you can assign it to Keepio friends only–for people that you allow in as an opt-in mechanism–or you can make it completely public if it’s something you wanted to sell in the public marketplace.
We’re also getting ready to roll out group functionality. You could have groups of DVD collectors selling to DVD collectors, or figurines or whatever the case may be. These groups can self-assign each other and grow organically. They have their mutual interests already baked in from the get go.
So you’ve got a warm lead in terms of a marketplace any time you want to go somewhere, find people you trust, and buy or sell there.
BP: How are you going to monetize Keepio?
Right now, we are exploring several options.
I think one thing that can differentiate us is getting rid of transaction fees. Friends sell to friends; they are going to drop it off at a person’s house. We don’t want to deal with fees. I think right away that differentiates us from the eBays of the world.
So we’ll ask people, do you want to tap into the Amazon product discovery API and look at your inventory and make suggestions of products that you could sell? Or follow a Mint.com style model, where we see that you have a set of appliances with no warranty information. Then we may be able to offer you an extended warranty or extended service plan. Or if you don’t have home insurance policy, we’d be able to set you up with one through our site and connect you directly to an insurance agent.
We also talked about white labeling it for certain groups. For example, a church, school or a YMCA using this for their own peer-to-peer sharing, swapping and shopping within those existing communities.
I think we have a lot of opportunity in regards to monetizing. We’re going to have a lot of aggregated profile data that may be of value to OEMs, retailers, and other marketers. For example, wouldn’t it be great to get special deals because of your brand loyalty?
BP: There seems to be a movement of online businesses that cut out traditional middlemen. You’re cutting out eBay, for example. Businesses like AirBnB cut out hotels. Can you tell me a little more about this phase and what it means as an evolution for business and entrepreneurs?
There’s no question that the landscape for business is evolving rapidly due to our changing relationship with each other and the way in which our digital lives overlay our personal reactions.
There are a lot of opportunities in peer to peer interactions right now. AirBnB is a great example. Getaround is a great example.
There’s a great new book that just came out by Rachael Botsman that’s called What’s Mine is Yours. She describes collaborative consumption as the rapid explosion of swapping, sharing, bartering, trading, and renting being reinvented in ways relevant to the Facebook age. So when you look at the business landscape, there are definitely some trends that are rising.
It seems like everyone is interested in more responsible consumption. Coupled with less-than-ideal economic climate, nearly everyone is more proactive in looking for deals from trusted sources.
People are looking for better value from the things they buy. The secondhand marketplace is a natural extension of that. As we become more interconnected as people and consumers, it’s more likely we’ll buy from each other instead of the more linear supply chain of retailers and wholesalers and whatnot.
The secondary market is a $500 billion market annually. The mechanisms out there currently to sell and trade, like eBay and Craigslist, don’t address the peer-to-peer factor in selling and trading. Keepio fills a void that was nonexistent and creates new marketplaces for people seeking more value from what they own or would like to acquire. For about 15 years now, e-commerce has been an individual activity. Now it’s a collaborative or person-to-person or many-to-many activity. We’re creating a tool to help facilitate those sorts of transactions.
BP: It seems mobile would be an elemental aspect of that as well.
Absolutely. That is on the roadmap. We want to hone in on the basic functionality of the online applications. We are building an iPhone app currently and hopefully an Android app soon.
It’s going to start as inventory in your pocket. We want to give you the flexibility, on your mobile device, to go through your home and snap a shot of everything, then be able to push that automatically to your online inventory of personal belongings.
We’re starting with inventory in your pocket, but eventually we want to integrate more ways to easily keep track of your items. Barcode scanning, for example, will enable you to scan something and add it on the fly to your inventory, or you could scan an item and see if your friend is already selling it for cheaper than retail.
Co-founders Dave Durand (product development) and Nick Huhn (customer development) are experienced builders of businesses and enduring customer experiences. Both have 15 years of architecting web applications for real businesses under their belts.